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School board discusses attendance policy, new hires

June 29, 2012
Ross Bercik - Managing Editor , Traer Star-Clipper

The North Tama County Community School Board met in regular session on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. A large portion of the meeting was reserved for introduction of new hires and the acceptance of resignations.

The biggest loss for the school this year will be of longtime principal and activities director Irv Laube. Laube, who had been at North Tama for 12 years, recently accepted the principal position at Dike-New Hartford High School.

He cited the increased pay, distance from family and the ability to focus more on the educational side of things as reasons for his departure. Laube spoke to the school board and expressed his gratitude for the dozen years he worked and lived in the community, and made clear how much he would miss North Tama.

Laube will be helping finish scheduling this week before formally ending his time at the school and handing over the reins to the newly hired principal, Paul Rea. Rea comes to North Tama from Waterloo Alternative School, where he was the principal for the past three years.

The board went into closed session at the end of the meeting to discuss Rea's starting salary and benefits. The Star-Clipper will have more details on those discussions, along with a profile of Rea and what he brings to the community, in an upcoming issue.

Before leaving, Laube gave the final secondary report of the year, stating that the high school had a 96.05% attendance rate in the final quarter of 2012. 44 junior high and 80 high school students made the honor roll, which are good percentages on par with the average. There was only one student failing in junior high at the end of the year.

Dan Oltman, high school social studies teacher and head football coach, was present to meet the board. He was awarded the contract for weight room duty, as previous football coaches have been.

Oltman took time to express his appreciation for Matt Lawton, who has been helping out with the weightlifting program, encouraging the players and will hopefully be helping during practices and games in the fall. Lawton will be a sophomore this year, and Oltman said they players have enjoyed having him around the team this offseason, and he has been a big help.

Oltman plans to implement a three-tiered leadership program which will help groom future captains and program leaders for the football team, and has also been working on getting the field ready.

The board spent the middle portion of the meeting addressing the approval of bills, approval of an addendum to the Medicaid contract and the minutes from last month's meeting. All three motions passed unanimously.

Josh Youel gave the elementary report, and brought to the board's attention that 21 percent of the sixth grade students had failing grades in the fourth and final quarter. This was a dramatic jump from just five percent in the previous quarter.

Youel said teachers had seen less effort from the group and a general sense that they were checking out early at the end of the year. There were also dramatic drops for math scores in the fifth and sixth grade classes at the end of the year.

Summer school is an option for several students, and began last week. Youel stated that he has contacted all parents whose children would benefit from summer school, and attempted to target those who need it the most. Summer school will be held Mondays & Wednesdays for lower elementary and Tuesdays & Thursdays for upper elementary students.

Dave Stuart inquired as to how the teachers from the elementary would collaborate with junior high teachers on the students with academic issues who are moving on, and Youel stated the teachers have already had conversations on how to best help the students who need it most.

There were some positive signs, however, as the students who rated as proficient in the NWEA - Map Test for math upped their scores, especially the fourth grade class. The percentage of proficient students jumped from 72.7 to 95.6 between the fall and spring.

Perhaps the largest item of discussion on the elementary report was the implementation of an attendance policy at the elementary school. The board was in agreement that there needs to be harsher penalties for missing excessive amounts of school.

Youel mentioned that one of the worst offenders this year had 43 tardies.

The new policy will count any student who misses the first or any other portion of 1.5 hours of school in a day will be counted as tardy. Anything between 1.5 and 3 hours will be a half-day absence, with anything over that becoming an absence.

Absences will then be classified as an absence or an exempt absence. Exempt absences include, but are not limited to: school trips, illness that requires hospitalization, a death in the family and medical appointments.

Being sick, haircuts, shopping trips, family vacations, babysitting and other reasons will count as a regular absence. When a student reaches 8 absences over the course of a semester, the parents will receive a call of letter. After 10 absences, the student will have to make arrangements with the teacher to make up work and set up two hours after school for every absence past 10 days. Three tardies will count as one absence. No tardies will be considered exempt.

The attendance policy will allow the administration to have more impact on getting students to school consistently and on time. This should not affect students who are occasionally late, or have medical problems, as there will be judgement calls made by the principal and staff regarding exemptions.

This program is designed specifically to encourage students who are chronically late or absent to get to school more, and encourage their parents to take more of an active role in ensuring their child gets an education.

The board moved on to discuss the replacement of windows on the northwest side of the building, and looked over two bids that were submitted. The board moved on a motion to replace the windows at a cost of $71,589.

The board also considered replacing most of the light bulbs in the school with new, energy efficient ones. Traer Municipal Utilities is willing to loan the school over $14,000 interest-free for two years to fund the project.

A few board members raised questions over the effectiveness of the new lights, not as an energy saver, but whether they would be bright enough.

Youel has stated that he will get a few of the new bulbs to try out and demonstrate to the board members with concerns over their effectiveness. Several local businesses have made the switch, such as Staker Furniture. A motion was made giving tentative approval, provided the board members are satisfied after seeing the product in action.

The board accepted the resignations of Spencer Karr as junior high football coach, Derrick Dengler as junior high boys track coach and Stacy Berns as junior high girls track coach.

Dan Oltman was awarded the junior high boys track job, with Channing Merchant being given the junior high volleyball position after the board declined to renew the current coach's contract.

The board also brought up the need to raise some of the fees the school charges, including the possibility of charging K-3 admission to sporting events. The school pays to compete in athletic events, something the general public doesn't realize when attending games, so the price of admission actually goes to fund the athletic events themselves, not as a large profit for the school. Superintendant Bob Cue brought up the example of the baseball tournament last weekend, which raised barely $200, with roughly $175 of that going to pay for the event itself.

The board went into closed session at the end of the evening to discuss administrative salary negotiations. The next meeting of the North Tama County Community School Board will be Monday, July 16, 2012, at 7 p.m.



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